Sharing ideas on Risk, Human Performance, Teams and Leaders

Mark de Rond

Misconceptions of what makes for great teams

Mark de Rond is a Reader in strategy and organization at Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. His book ‘Strategic Alliances as Social Facts: Business, Biotechnology & Intellectual History” received the 2005 George R Terry Book Award from the Academy of Management. Mark was the youngest ever author to have received this prestigious award. Subsequent books have topped ‘Best Reads’ lists at the Financial Times and BBC Sport. His portfolio of work was awarded the 2009 Imagination Lab Award. Mark studies teams of high performers the old-fashioned way: by living with them full-time. In 2011 Mark embedded with a team of surgeons in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, to understand how they collaborate together.

Mark de Rond, Ethnographer, Professor in Strategy & Organisation, Cambridge Judge Business School, describes the importance of observing team dynamics in action to understand them. Teams need an environment in which to speak freely; conflict within the team does not indicate there is a problem, rather it is important people within the team are able to tell the leaders what is needed; accept discord and be careful not to suppress rivalry or competition. Teams reshuffle often and this introduces new stress and conflict, and it is important to allow new teams to settle-in. He challenges the notion that team success depends on equal dynamics and shared responsibilities within the team; rather that successful teams react under stress and threat by appreciating and uniting the individual strengths and capabilities of all individuals in the team. Harmony within the team is not as important as respecting and appreciating the varying contributions from team members that ultimately completes the task or defends against the threat. The harmony of a team does NOT guarantee performance, rather harmony is the consequence of good performance. Teamwork does not come naturally to everyone, and leaders must appreciate the strengths of individuals on the team. Finally, Mark dispels the contention that high work load can kill or disrupt teamwork (performance paradox).